Perspectivism (German: Perspektivismus) is the philosophical view (touched upon as far back as Plato's rendition of Protagoras) that all ideations take place from particular perspectives, and that there are many possible conceptual schemes, or perspectives in which judgment of truth or value can be made. This is often taken to imply that no way of seeing the world can be taken as definitively "true", but does not necessarily entail that all perspectives are equally valid. The term was coined by nineteenth-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
Perspectivism rejects objective metaphysics, claiming that no evaluation of objectivity can transcend cultural formations or subjective designations. Therefore, there are no objective facts, nor any knowledge of a thing-in-itself. Truth is separated from any particular vantage point, and so there are no ethical or epistemological absolutes. Rules (i.e., those of philosophy, the scientific method, etc.) are constantly reassessed according to the circumstances of individual perspectives. "Truth" is thus created by integrating different vantage points together.
People always adopt perspectives by default – whether they are aware of it or not – and the concepts of one's existence are defined by the circumstances surrounding that individual. Truth is made by and for individuals and peoples. This view differs from many types of relativism which consider the truth of a particular proposition as something that altogether cannot be evaluated with respect to an "absolute truth", without taking into consideration culture and context.
This view is outlined in an aphorism from Nietzsche's posthumously-assembled collection The Will to Power:
In so far as the word "knowledge" has any meaning, the world is knowable; but it is interpretable [emphasis in original] otherwise, it has no meaning behind it, but countless meanings.—"Perspectivism." It is our needs that interpret the world; our drives and their For and Against. [emphasis added] Every drive is a kind of lust to rule; each one has its perspective that it would like to compel all the other drives to accept as a norm.— Friedrich Nietzsche; trans. Walter Kaufmann, The Will to Power, §481 (1883–1888)
Richard Schacht, in his interpretation of Nietzsche's thought, argues that this can be expanded into a revised form of "objectivity" in relation to "subjectivity" as an aggregate of singular viewpoints that illuminate, for example, a particular idea in seemingly self-contradictory ways but upon closer inspection would reveal a difference of contextuality and of rule by which such an idea (e.g., that is fundamentally perspectival) can be validated. Therefore, it can be said each perspective is subsumed into and, taking account of its individuated context, adds to the overall objective measure of a proposition under examination. Nevertheless, perspectivism does not implicate any method of inquiry nor a structural theory of knowledge in general.
- Anekantavada, a fundamental doctrine of Jainism setting forth a pluralistic metaphysics
- Conceptual framework
- Consilience, the unity of knowledge
- Constructivist epistemology
- Moral nihilism
- Moral skepticism
- Multiperspectivalism, a current in Calvinist epistemology
- Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche
- Rhizome (philosophy)
- "Subjectivity is Truth", a concept on subjectivity by Søren Kierkegaard
- Transcendental perspectivism
- Value pluralism
- Edwards, David (1979). "The Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics". Synthese. 42: 1–70.
- Mautner, Thomas, The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy, 2005, page 418
- Schacht, Richard, Nietzsche, 1993, page 61.
- Scott-Kakures, Dion, History of Philosophy, 1993, page 346
- Nietzsche, Friedrich (1878). "Section 16". Human, All Too Human.
- Original German: Soweit überhaupt das Wort »Erkenntniß« Sinn hat, ist die Welt erkennbar: aber sie ist anders deutbar, sie hat keinen Sinn hinter sich, sondern unzählige Sinne. – »Perspektivismus«. ¶ Unsere Bedürfnisse sind es, die die Welt auslegen; unsere Triebe und deren Für und Wider. Jeder Trieb ist eine Art Herrschsucht, jeder hat seine Perspektive, welche er als Norm allen übrigen Trieben aufzwingen möchte. (Wille zur Macht, Nr. 481.)
- Schacht, Richard, Nietzsche, 1993.